LAHORE, Jan 13: The office of auditor-general of Pakistan has, while replying to queries raised by Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, clarified that the special audit reports of 35 districts in Punjab were not proven corruption.

It says that the audit reports are the basis of the accountability process and are the first step in a series of further steps that need to be taken under the relevant laws and procedures.

“Once this is done, it can be stated conclusively that the due process has attained finality,” says an official letter sent to the governor by Deputy Auditor-General Reehan Malik on behalf of the auditor-general.

The copy of the letter was given to media on Tuesday but it was sent to the Governor’s House on Monday in response to the clarification sought by Taseer on Jan 6.

Seeking the explanation, the governor had also sent copies of newspaper advertisements got published by the Punjab government to accuse the district governments of committing corruption worth billions of rupees. The charges were based on the audit reports of the auditor-general.

The letter explains that audit observations are based upon auditable documents or deficiencies in such documents. Departments are urged to respond to observations so that either the matter is clarified, resolved, or the observation stands and the departmental view where available is incorporated in the final audit report. The paras that are printed are, therefore, based upon facts as known at the time of audit.

It is important to note that audit does not fix responsibilities where fraud and embezzlement may have occurred. It is the responsibility of the executive to conduct an inquiry and, if proved, to fix the responsibility. It is the principal accounting officer (DCOs in the case of district governments) who must respond to audit paras.

The letter says that after the audit, reports have been transmitted to the appropriate forum for the following procedures, as prescribed in sub-section 2 of Section 115 of the Punjab Local Government Ordinance (PLGO), 2001.

The letter quotes the law which says: “Nazims shall cause the audit report to be laid before the respective council which shall refer it to the accounts committee. The committee shall scrutinise and discuss the report under the Punjab Local government (Accounts) Rules, 2008, and submit its recommendations to the district council for appropriate action.

After explaining to procedure, the letters says that the total district budgets audited by the department were Rs317.050 billion. Total irregularities pointed out in reports amounted to Rs114.57 billion.

It says that an irregularity can range from procedural omissions/commissions to expenditure beyond legal appropriations to apparent misappropriation etc.

“The audit reports (of the Punjab districts) do not claim that fraudulent expenditures, embezzlement and misappropriation amounting to Rs94 billion have been unearthed by the audit,” the letter clarifies.

To another query of the governor, the letter says that the audit reports do indicate where embezzlement may have occurred (In Punjab’s case Rs703.57 million).

But it says that this observation is based upon information provided at the time of audit. For conclusive determination, the due process as explained must be carried out in addition to any inquiry that may be considered necessary. It says that it is imperative that the requirements of the law may now be carried out and the reports be laid before the respective councils.

While seeking the clarification, the governor had mentioned that 10 district nazims had submitted a petition to him (to challenge the corruption charges). And he had sought views of the provincial government on the issue.

The governor asked that was it conclusively proven through these reports that corruption of Rs94 billion had been unearthed.

Did the said reports conclusively prove that fraudulent expenditures, embezzlement and financial misappropriation of Rs94 billion had been committed by the local governments of Punjab?

And was there proven embezzlement or misappropriation of Rs4.6 billion in the respective local bodies as claimed to have been committed in the advertisements.The governor had sought the clarification as to whether the allegations had been conclusively established by the audit reports or other procedural formalities were yet to be observed to inquire into the matter to prove the charges, if any.

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